Electrified motorcycles are steadily gaining traction as the next frontier for two-wheelers. Brands like Triumph and Harley-Davidson's LiveWire, among others, are scrambling to get these emission-free models into the market, but it isn't an easy task. EV platform development can take years, and battery technology costs have yet to catch up with what we expect from mass-market electric bikes.
For these reasons, some people see hybrid motorcycles as solid middle ground in the transition from combustion engines to electric motors. One of the manufacturers seemingly working on this possibility is Yamaha, which has, in the past, shown varying degrees of interest in the technology.
In 2005, Yamaha showed off the Gen-Ryu concept, a radically designed hybrid motorcycle that borrowed tech from the Toyota Prius. The idea was promising, as it involved a rudimentary planetary gear system that could switch between gas and electric power through a continuously variable transmission (CVT). As we know by now, nothing significant came of that concept. Yamaha has not put any hybrid models into production, but could that change soon?
Now a barrage of patent filings has revealed that Yamaha is indeed revisiting its hybrid tech inclinations. What's different this time around is the use of a "series hybrid" system, which in this use case involves an electric motor doing most of the work to drive the rear wheel. The (predicted small-displacement) combustion engine's purpose in this setup is to run at a pace efficient enough to recharge the battery.
Yamaha has reportedly filed patents for ten different versions of this technology. These design ideas range from NMAX-style scooters to bonafide electric streetfighters. In some illustrations, there appears to be a low-mounted gasoline engine powering a generator, plus a large battery beneath the seat with the motor sitting even lower.
The case for a Yamaha series-hybrid motorcycle is intriguing, but only the Japanese company knows if it will ever reach production. For now, we'll have to sit back and watch as Yamaha's designers and engineers work to bring these ideas to life.